There were some interesting nuggets to digest from today's media conference calls with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
Here are four items of note:
1. Respect for Packers' corners. Belichick noted that the Packers' 3-4 defense is similar to the Steelers, which makes sense since the coordinator is Dom Capers, whose background is in that system. But Belichick noted that the Packers' defense plays differently than the Steelers based on personnel, specifically at cornerback with Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. When the Patriots played the Steelers earlier this year, they attacked a weakness at cornerback. With the Packers, their corners are a strength, so look for the Patriots to attack differently than they did against the Steelers.
2. Connection with Capers. In 2008, Capers served as defensive backs coach under Belichick in New England. Belichick and Capers sometimes talked about the differences of the 3-4 systems they like to run, which helped Belichick pick up insight of the Steelers-based scheme. In turn, Capers learned about the Patriots' scheme, which adds an Xs and Os wrinkle to this week's planning. "He certainly gave me a better understanding of some of the adjustments and the philosophies that he and the Steelers used in building their defense and some of their keys and adjustments and why they did them and what caused them to adjust and things like that," Belichick said, adding that Capers learned the same thing about Belichick's scheme. "It was a good give and take, certainly a good learning year for me to have him on our staff. And I think he’d probably say the same thing from what he gained that year."
3. Patriots considered signing Eric Moore in September. Pass-rushing defensive end Eric Moore, who recorded four tackles and a strip sack Sunday in Chicago, was signed to a two-year contract on Dec. 3. It almost happened three months earlier. Caserio revealed that the Patriots brought Moore in for a visit the first week of September, but didn't have a roster spot for him. Moore has played primarily as a 4-3 defensive end over his career and it didn't sound as if Caserio viewed him as a conversion-type to play 3-4 outside linebacker. So at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he projects as a sub rusher, similar to Derrick Burgess last year.
4. Lot of Clay Matthews talk. With the Patriots preparing to face the Packers, there was plenty of chatter about top pass-rusher Clay Matthews and whether the Patriots would have benefitted from selecting him 26th overall last year instead of trading the pick to Green Bay (Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe breaks down that trade). Caserio said Matthews is the type of player who could line up in any system and be successful. Caserio added that Matthews primarily plays in a two-point stance for the Packers, even when he rushes on third down. That would be an interesting fit in New England, as the team's outside linebackers usually rush out of a three-point stance on third down. Reading between the lines, it sounds like the Patriots had a challenging projection on Matthews coming out of USC, wondering if he'd be sturdy enough at outside linebacker in their 3-4 alignment, which is different than Green Bay's.